Dorothy Crenshaw April 4, 2009 | 10:27:21

Last Night A Twitter Saved A Life

The social media thing can seem frivolous at times…after all, we’re not talking about saving lives, right?

Wrong.  Yesterday, actress and celebrity Twitterati Demi Moore reportedly helped stop a possible suicide attempt by a woman who tweeted her intent to cut her arm to kill herself. (I admit I follow mrskutcher, and even saw the comment in question, but assumed it was part of another conversation, so I missed its seriousness.)  But the episode is another illustration of the power and immediacy of Twitter, and along with other recent events, it highlights the  difference between the Facebook and Twitter communities.   Ironically, the gap between the two has widened since Facebook’s recent redesign, which ostensibly made it more Twitter-like.

From my recent explorations of Twitter, the communities are very different from a user perspective.  Nick O’Neill did an interesting comparison that noted, among other things, that Facebook users expect to talk with one another about celebrities and brand, whereas on Twitter, there is always the possibility of two-way interaction, like the Demi Moore drama.  For my money, Twitter is far more business-focused, self-referential, and potentially more useful, particularly since it tends to involve people I haven’t met.  It’s grabbed the celebrity and corporate brand followings, as well as a vibrant, sophisticated and very eclectic community of techpreneurs, consultants, thinkers, writers, and many others who use it to promote their businesses, brands and projects.  Yet, as a meritocracy, Twitter will punish those who spam or overtweet, so it tends to self-regulate.

Facebook, by contrast, with its huge community, is still a far better gauge of what’s popular, what’s happening, and what constitutes real personal interaction among social groups. But, to my knowledge, it hasn’t saved a life.